hanselgretelwhDawn and I have different ways we like to work. I tend to prefer to compose in silence, without distractions, while her sweet spot for drawing is to find something to put on the television that provides some background noise without being particularly compelling viewing. This, I hope, is the only real explanation for why an entire season of Toddlers & Tiaras graced our airwaves, although I think I eventually complained in that case because some of it was just too wretched for me to shut out, and we do not live in a large place.

Occasionally though, the pendulum swings in the other direction and something we figured was going to be ignorable noise proves impossible to resist. It still kills our productivity, which means more than once we’ve had to stop something if we’re on deadline and take a rain check for later, but then there are those times where we do have the opportunity to just set our work aside and get immersed in something surprisingly fun.

Yeah, so, the image to the right probably spoils which something I’m referring to. With Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters I expected just  another formulaic, overblown, impactless PG-13 offering on par with Van Helsing.

I think it was about at the ten or fifteen minute mark as some dude was getting bloodily torn apart by a tree that I put that opinion to rest and closed down the word processor in favor of a comfortable spot on the couch.

Oh don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking deep cinema here, but suddenly realizing this movie had an ‘R’ rating and was going to take gleeful advantage of that was a strangely refreshing concept in this modern era where Hollywood executives are relentlessly pushing that PG-13. Our action movies have by and large become, literally, bloodless things, or when there is blood it’s often rendered with CGI effects that never have a proper suspension of disbelief to them.  There is no impact. I caught the ending of the recent A-Team movie not too long ago and it was painfully obvious the actors were running from and reacting to nothing more dangerous than a green wall. The worst of all is the now cliche sequence of the gigantic armies charging at each other to meet in a crushing melee, except that in the end there’s no real contact, and thus no real point and no real drama. I’m not saying people should actually be killing each other, but Braveheart had real folks at least shoving each other and it makes a difference.

But I’m getting off track with that rant. The Hansel & Gretel movie is not devoid of computer effects, but it mixes them with practical effects, particularly in the bits where things get a little gory.  Is it realistic for a head to splatter like that? Well, probably not, but at least something real splattered. The director obviously seemed to be taking cues from Sam Raimi or early Peter Jackson. This was confirmed when I looked it up and found that said director was Tommy Wirkola, who all but wore his Raimi/Jackson worship on his sleeve when he filmed Dead Snow. You remember Dead Snow, don’t you? I mentioned it here awhiles back, but two words sum it up: Nazi zombies.

Wirkola is a director still having immense fun with having the opportunity to make movies, especially making movies in the mold of his heroes. If you liked Army of Darkness, I’m fairly certain Hansel & Gretel will float your boat, especially if you miss that old school, ridiculously balls-to-the-wall sort of gory, comedic action/horror. It’s everything Van Helsing should have been, and while superficially they may resemble each other, there’s a feeling of sincere commitment rather than cynical marketing at play. For me, that made all the difference.